Friendships in your adult years sometimes feel like they’ll last forever. Your social circle has been cultivated over many years; lifelong bonds solidified through cocktails and the inevitable shared hangover, house moves, marriages, breakups and endless hours of deep discussion of the values of a good book and bad reality TV show.
But just when you thought you and your chosen family were safe, a new test of the friendship arrives – you have a baby.
You lose friends, you gain friends, and you discover the “unicorns”.
Everyone visits to begin with. Everyone understands that you can’t leave the house. Everyone understands why you reschedule. “You have a newborn. No, don’t even worry about it! We’ll come to you! You tell US when.” They bring food, presents and wine. They cuddle the baby and then they leave, promising another visit soon.
You get a few of these house calls and then suddenly (!) it’s a few months later. The baby is vaccinated and you’re planning coffees dates. You’re leaving the house and they’re still very understanding. It’s OK that you’re late. It’s OK that you have to work around napping and feeding schedule. It’s OK that you want to stay close to home.
You meet up at the closest cafe to your house and things are normal; they hold the baby while you inhale your coffee. Only the very slightest of grimaces crosses their face when baby starts grizzling before it’s replaced with an indulgent smile and your child is handed back to you eagerly.
It’s around nine to 12 months that you might notice the novelty wearing off for some friends. (The novelty of YOU having a baby).
Their lives return to normal. Yours doesn’t.
They start getting confused as time goes on and you’re still not available like you used to be.
“Oh, you can’t do anything between 10am-2pm?” (Because NAP TIME).
“That’s weird. Can’t she sleep in the pram?” (Please don’t get me started).
They still make their plans between 10am and 2pm.
They stop inviting you. You can never be there anyway.
They call less, ask to visit less, text less.
Of course, it’s a two-way street. Just because you have a kid doesn’t mean you can completely slack off making an effort with your friends, but having a child means your priorities change. Luxuries, like eating lunch at 1pm or having dinner at 7pm, are a thing of the past. Like feeling well rested, sane and getting a regular pedicure.
And yeah, it’s OK for people to not get it. Some people don’t have kids, some people don’t like kids. Some people haven’t spent much time around them and have no clue what they’re like and how they function. Some friends just don’t know how to adjust your friendship parameters to accommodate the changes in your day to day life.
It’s sad, but perhaps down the track they’ll understand. Perhaps in three to five years when your kid isn’t teething, day napping or toilet training, you’ll be able to pick up where you left off, with lunches in the middle of the day and dinners after 5pm. Perhaps you’ll simply drift apart, and you’ll be reliving your mum’s advice during high school when she told you that some friendships just don’t last the distance.
As sad as it is to lose some friends through this period, you almost always gain a few new ones. The new and unlikely friends you make after having a baby.
There’s the Mothers’ Group women you had previously heard were far too intense and possibly unstable. The work colleagues (that you were tight with in the office but thought it may not “work out” in real life) who suddenly have a baby around the time that you do. The neighbour you’d never spoken to because they seemed far too pulled together for someone with three children. Suddenly there are new people that you bond with OVER your kids, but find out that’s not all you have in common: you actually like them as people.
They speak your language. You discuss CIO, BBL, Leaps and daycare subsidies. You mouth swear words over your babies heads and then roll your eyes in unison when they all insist on putting their fingers in every cup and dish on the cafe table. You eat a LOT of food (usually what the kids haven’t eaten or destroyed) and visit parks, libraries, each other’s houses and you are almost instantly comfortable straddling that weird space that you occupy as parents brought together by small people who seemingly run your entire life. These new bonds can be the beginning of lifelong friendships.
Finally, we come to the “unicorn.”
The friends you had pre-baby, who “get” it. Whether they have children or not: They. Get. It. When your baby is no longer a baby but a toddler they still visit, take the toddler off your hands, unload the dishwasher without asking, and let you talk about said toddler for two hours even though it’s the thing you least (but also most) want to do.
They ask you out for coffee every few weeks and when you do eventually accept they still ask what time suits you, and then follow it up with, “I can come over to your side of town if that’s easier?”. They don’t ask if you’ll be bringing your kid to catch up. They assume you will be. They entertain the toddler so you can drink a cup of coffee. They ask how her teeth are going, and how much sleep you’re getting.
They give you space without drifting apart. They know your life got BIG, real quick, and seem to understand that it’s just a waiting game (of three to five years) before your life will be “somewhat” back to normal. But until then, they’re on the other end of the phone. They’re in the next suburb over, on call when you have an emergency; whether that’s a sick baby or just a desperate need of home-delivered coffee and five minutes of grown-up conversation.
These friends, and the ones you inadvertently find post baby are worth their weight in gold/wine/gummy bears. And who knows? Those you drifted from may still be there waiting when you are finally, thankfully, mercifully free to see them (for an hour once every three weeks between 6pm and 7pm, but only if it’s a full moon).